Puppy Smell: Breathe
By Nicole L Rivera
By Nicole L Rivera
No one looked at me, as if I were death incarnate. I wanted to jump at them and growl – give them something to stare at.
Instead, I slid into the cold, plastic, chair connected to the fake, wood desk. I plopped my bag on the table and rested my face in the corduroy exterior. I inhaled – grass, chow, baby shampoo – puppy smell.
Warmth consumed me like liquid chocolate flowing through my veins.
I raised my hand and put it back down. A tear streamed down my face. I couldn’t bring myself to look up and see the eyes of my classmates.
I should have stayed home today, but I couldn’t look at his pictures anymore. Mom had set them up all over the house like a shrine to the man she hated to love.
I huffed a muffled laugh. Funny how close those two emotions flow.
No one bothered me in class, not even my eccentric English teacher, Mrs. Braun. Instead, I kept my head down and listened as my peers analyzed Shakespeare. As if they had any idea what tragedy really felt like. Stupid kids.
All they care about is who’s going to be homecoming queen, how many extra-curricular activities they can rake up on their college resumes, and who they’d have to off to weasel their way into the top ten percent of our graduating class.
Not me. If I make it through the day without forgetting to breathe, that will be an accomplishment worthy of a full ride to Harvard.
No wonder the Emo’s cut their hair to cover their eyes and paint them in black. I’d have to do that much to cover the red, puffy circles that highlighted my faded green eyes. But, then, I don’t care enough to cover up, and no one cares – or dares – to offer me help.
I’m officially a loner.
Forty-five minutes into sixth period, I rose from my backpack. The smell of Peanut, my puppy, had faded – or my nose had become desensitized to the scent. Either way I needed a break.
The first set of eyes to catch mine were, Bianca’s. She turned back to the front of the room as if being caught doing something wrong – a week ago she’d been my closest “friend”.
Mr. Forbes, my balding Economics teacher, wore his usual vest which was so tight it pushed his fat out in every direction. Someone needed to buy the man a mirror.
He glowed at the class as if any of us cared what GNP was. “So who can summarize the theory of supply and demand for the class?”
His was the only question I’d heard all day.
I raised my hand.
He jumped at signs of life. Everyone stared at me – for a reason this time.
He pointed to me. “Lisi. You have an answer?”
I cleared my dusty throat. “None of it matters.”
The class froze. Twenty sets of wide, glass eyes honed in on me like a rat in a lab experiment.
Mr. Forbes adjusted his red bow-tie. “Excuse me?” He tilted his head to the side as if to see me better.
“It doesn’t matter. The higher the supply the lower the price, and vice versa. But, at the end of the day it’s irrelevant.”
He didn’t get mad like most teachers would. Instead, his brow creased into a curios line. “I don’t understand your reasoning. Please explain.” He smiled. “I think we may be on our way to a debate.” He smirked as if announcing no homework for the rest of the year.
The room didn’t get the cue that they should be ecstatic with pleasure to hear what was to come out of my sour mouth. Instead, it was like having twenty statues of Michelangelo’s David facing me at the same time – creepy.
My throat seared – emotion boiling up from one of the cavities I’d stuffed it in.
“All day I’ve wanted to die. Everyone,” I motioned to the room at large, though I wasn’t sure if another warm-blooded being inhabited the territory, “knows what happened to my father. They stare at me, but not one person has spoken to me all day – tried to help me remember to breathe.” I gasped. “At the end of the day, who cares about supply and demand when the people I called friends could care less how I feel. I’m no longer of use on their social climb here in high school world, so who cares?”
They continued to stare at me as if I screamed, “I have a bomb strapped to my chest.”
I put my head back in my bag and there it was again – grass, chow, baby shampoo, and tears – puppy smell.